Carrie Kahn

The Sundance Film Festival ran from January 18th to 28th this year; over 120 films were shown in ten days. For the fourth year in a row, I was on the (often snowy) ground, knocking out almost 20 films in five days in order to bring you the Best of the Fest. I present here the ten best films I saw – five features, four documentaries, and one special screening. Keep your eyes out for these during the coming year, as they are well worth your time and money. And if you’d like to know all the films that took home awards this year, you can see the winners here.

TOP FIVE FEATURE FILMS

1.) Search
(USA 2017, 101 min. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Category: Next)

Worried father David Kim (John Cho) uses the Internet to search for his missing daughter.

The word innovative doesn’t even come close to doing filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty’s first feature film justice. Using a narrative that unfolds completely on a computer screen (via video chats, texts, emails, Internet searches, and news videos), Chaganty immerses us in the story of recently widowed dad David (John Cho, excellent as always) and his desperate search for his missing teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La). Debra Messing, cast against type, is terrific as the San Jose police detective heading the investigation. Filled with red herrings and twists and turns you’ll never see coming, Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian’s South Bay-set mystery is as imaginative as their method of telling it. Both a celebration and a critique of our increasing reliance on technology, the brilliantly executed Search is my hands-down favorite film of the Festival. Sony Pictures acquired the picture for five million dollars in one of the Festival’s biggest buys, so a wide release will be forthcoming. The film also deservedly won both an audience award and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. Don’t miss this one. [read the whole post]

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Jane Kaczmarek reads a story by Katherine Heiny at Selected Shorts: Too Hot For Radio at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre on January 26, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Tommy Lau

As a longtime listener of Symphony Space’s Selected Shorts, a short story reading radio program broadcast locally on KQED-88.5 on Saturday nights, I was thrilled to see that Sketchfest was bringing the show to the Festival for the first time ever this year. What made the live performance even more special and fun was that it promised to offer stories “too hot for radio” – ones that, for various content reasons couldn’t be read over the air during the regular program, but could be read to a non-broadcast, live theater audience. As an added bonus on top of that, as is typical with Selected Shorts, the stories would be read by famous, well-regarded actors. For “Too Hot for Radio” we were graced with Arrested Development regular and comedian David Cross, actors Lance Reddick (The Wire) and Academy Award nominee David Strathairn (an alumni of Larkspur’s Redwood High School), and actress and Symphony Space regular reader Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle). The live show, held on Friday, January 26th at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre, didn’t disappoint, and more than lived up to my expectations.

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Annie Ellicott sings with Jeff Goldblum (on piano) and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre on Jan. 28th. (Photo courtesy of: https://www.facebook.com/pg/goldblumofficial/photos)

For the third year in a row, SF Sketchfest fans were treated to the affable charm of actor and musician Jeff Goldblum, who brought his Mildred Snitzer Orchestra jazz band to the Marines’ Memorial Theatre last Sunday for a cabaret-style evening of jazz, movie clips, and a whole lot more. Goldblum’s laid-back and amiable presence is always enjoyable, and he seems to take just as much pleasure in his show and his audience interaction as his fans do. [read the whole post]

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Film Review: The Commuter

by Carrie Kahn on January 12, 2018

Rough commute takes on a whole new meaning in fun Neeson-helmed thrill ride

Commuter Michael (Liam Neeson, r.) tries to save his fellow train passengers. 

If you are suffering from post-holiday malaise and need a pick-me-up, you could do worse than seeing the new Liam Neeson action flick The Commuter. Unlike the usual forgettable fare that typically inhabits the January cinematic wasteland, Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra’s new film offers the sort of hold-your-breath thrills that you would expect from the same director who pitted Blake Lively against a shark in 2016’s The Shallows and who collaborated with Neeson back in 2014 on Non-Stop.
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If you didn’t get out to the movies as much as you’d hoped in 2017, it’s not too late to catch up on these worthy titles!

Spinning Platters Film Editor Carrie Kahn shares her ten favorite films of 2017, presented in descending rank order. You can also check out her list from last year here

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All the money can’t buy happiness in Scott’s tense new thriller

Gail (Michelle Williams) waits to speak with her ex-father-in-law.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, the saying goes, and so director Ridley Scott’s new film All the Money in the World had already captivated the public interest months before its release today. As most readers are probably aware, the bad publicity here was the revelation back in October that the film’s original lead, Kevin Spacey, had sexually harassed actor Anthony Rapp when he was 14. Spacey controversially apologized, but the damage was done; in early November, Scott and the film’s production team made the extraordinary decision to reshoot all Spacey’s scenes with a new actor, just three weeks before the film’s scheduled opening.
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Film Review: The Post

December 22, 2017

Spielberg brilliantly brings First Amendment showdown to life  “We can’t have the administration dictate our coverage just because they don’t like what we printed about them in the newspaper,” Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) tells Post owner and publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) in director Steven Spielberg’s fine new film The Post. A […]

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Film Review: Wonder Wheel

December 8, 2017

Allen’s newest far from Wonder-ful    Let’s first address the elephant in the room. Yes, Wonder Wheel, writer/director Woody Allen’s newest, is about a man who finds himself falling in love with his girlfriend’s step-daughter. I suspect there are many filmgoers who have made up their minds about Allen, and so either won’t see this […]

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Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

November 17, 2017
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Superb cast anchors McDonagh’s outstanding southern tale   “Raped while dying / And still no arrests / How come, Chief Willoughby?” So read the titular three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s brilliant, searing new blackest of black comedies. Whether the picture is correctly classified as a comedy – as its trailer would have […]

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Film Review: A Bad Moms Christmas

November 1, 2017
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Mediocre sequel deserves a lump of coal          With A Bad Moms Christmas, writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore try in vain to recapture the success of Bad Moms, their smart, funny, and truthful comedy from last year about overextended and overwhelmed modern day moms. They should have left well enough alone; not […]

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